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18.11.10

Mozambique shark fin trade exposed

The true extent of the shark fin trade in Mozambique has been exposed in a new documentary entitled Shiver.

Created by underwater film company Sangue Bom and Moz Images, the documentary was made after divers associated with the former outfit noticed a significant deterioration in the number of sharks seen on dives.

Having boasted bountiful numbers of sharks in the past, Mozambique’s waters seemed to be emptying of life. Shiver’s makers set out to investigate the depletion.

While many were conscious of the fact that Mozambique was not entirely free from shark finners, nobody was ready for what was to be unveiled.

Sangue Bom founder Dave Charley, 31, said: “Everyone was aware that sharks were being targeted, but knew little of the details - where this was occurring, which species were being targeted and where the fins were headed.

“On a double tank you used to see hammerheads, bull sharks, nurse sharks, white tips and black tips. Now shark sightings are becoming increasingly rare.”

The documentary reveals the shark fin trade off the coast of Mozambique to be something of an epidemic. But why has this east African country been targeted? Up until relatively recently shark finners seemed content fishing in alternative waters.

 

Shark fins

 

The answer is demand. Most of the fins head east, to China, home of shark fin soup.

The recent explosion in fin-fishing off the coast of Mozambique is, the Shiver team concludes, down to the emergence of a middle class in China and an associated increase in the number of people who can afford the expensive dish. As a result of being regarded as a delicacy, shark fin soup is something the new middle class wants to eat – it’s a status symbol.

It’s a simple case of supply and demand and, as such, a greater amount of the world’s waters are being fished for fins and Mozambique is no exception.

The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that there is little in the way of marine perseveration initiatives or patrols in Mozambique.

Indeed, the country has only one patrol vessel monitoring a coastline that stretches almost 3,000 kilometres.

Perhaps even more shocking is that of all the marine life off the east African country’s coast, only the turtle and dugong are protected by law – fishermen can legally kill creatures of real magnificence, such as the Whale shark.

 

A shark being hauled onto a small fishing boat


To capture the compelling footage for the documentary, the film crew faced a number of difficulties, including machete-wielding fisherman - fins fetch significant sums of money and the release of an anti-finning film might affect business.

Away from the cameras, the film’s presenter Carlos Macuacua, continues to push the marine conservation movement in Mozambique, with shark finning a mainstay on his agenda.

Carlos, who was Mozambique’s first ever scuba diving instructor (there are now three), aims to aid the perseveration of Mozambique’s ocean by giving talks to rural communities - grass roots stuff.

“I hope these sessions help people understand a little more about why Mozambique's waters are so special. Most people here have an innate fear of the sea – and in particular sharks. They have no idea of the global importance of these creatures,” he said.

 

Women wait for the catch and use the sharks' meat - which can often be toxic - for food

 

This is done not only through talks and education, but also scuba diving.

One Mozambican NGO offers a Day of Diving scheme that gives all Mozambicans the chance to experience the marine realm by going out on dive boats. It is hoped that seeing the world below the surface will allow the people of Mozambique to develop a greater fondness for its creatures.

But can Mozambique’s masses be educated before it is too late?

 

Shiver trailer - compelling viewing

 

For more information on Sangue Bom's work, click here.


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